Villa Mirabella

Villa Mirabella

3.5 4
by Peter Pezzelli

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In his acclaimed novels of Italian-American life, Peter Pezzelli explores themes of friendship, hope, and second chances. With Villa Mirabella, he invites readers into the lives of an unforgettable family—and into the warmth of one very special bed and breakfast. . .

When Jason Mirabella returns to his childhood home on a blustery winter's day, the

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In his acclaimed novels of Italian-American life, Peter Pezzelli explores themes of friendship, hope, and second chances. With Villa Mirabella, he invites readers into the lives of an unforgettable family—and into the warmth of one very special bed and breakfast. . .

When Jason Mirabella returns to his childhood home on a blustery winter's day, the only thing he's sure of is that he'll be staying in Providence just long enough to get back on his feet again. It's been three years since Jason moved to Los Angeles, brimming with ambitions he knew could never be fulfilled in Rhode Island. He had no intention of entering the family business—running a beautiful but timeworn B&B that's struggling to compete with downtown's luxurious new hotels. Smart, proud, and hardworking, Jason found quick success in L.A, until one foolish decision cost him everything.

Jason's widowed father, Giulio, is overjoyed to have his prodigal son back in the fold under any circumstances, though his siblings, Ray and Natalie, are less than thrilled. But as days go by, Jason slowly begins to carve out a place for himself, rediscovering the people and places he was so eager to leave behind, and beginning a tentative romance with a young woman who opens his eyes to a wider world.

Just as Jason begins to forge a better understanding of his family, circumstances transpire to test that bond and challenge his resolutions. Now, as the promise of spring comes to New England once more, Jason will learn that sometimes, you can go home again, and the answers found there may be the only ones you need. . .

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Much like his previous four novels, Pezzelli’s latest is a pleasurable, effortless read. Jason Mirabella was a young hotshot marketing genius for a medical company in L.A. until his boss persuaded him to bury the numbers of bad clinical studies for their latest money-making device. An investigation outed him, causing him to lose his job, friends, and romantic obsession—the bosses’ daughter, Amanda. Jason, with tail firmly between his legs, heads back home to Rhode Island, where his dad, sister, and brother run the family’s faltering bed and breakfast together. Giulio welcomes his son back with Italian-American open-armed gusto and puts him to work at the inn, much to his other son and daughter’s chagrin. As Jason works out his demons, he struggles to earn the trust of his siblings and to find true happiness in the town he couldn’t wait to be thousands of miles away from. The clichéd Italian-American family that eats, laughs, and loves is an omnipresent and overdone theme in Pezzelli’s work, but the feel-good story line is well thought out and well written, and warrants a spot in this summer’s beach-read bag. (June)

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Villa Mirabella



Copyright © 2010 Peter Pezzelli
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-2051-6

Chapter One

From somewhere, very far away it seemed, came the sound of a voice. Tender yet powerful, it was raised in song, the sweet melody caressing the air like a mother comforting her child.

The voice, and the piano that accompanied it, was the first thing the young man heard when he awoke, opened his eyes, and peered out into the blackness in which he was enveloped. At first he paid it no heed. How could he when, as so often happened to him, he was immediately beset by the dreadful feeling that the air was being squeezed out of his lungs? It was as if someone with a ponderously heavy boot was stepping on his chest, except this time it was heavier and more relentless than ever. Though curled into a ball, burrowed beneath the blankets as if in a cocoon, the young man was overcome by the sensation that he was laid out straight, suffocating, like someone who had been buried alive. In the inevitable moment of panic that ensued, he began to claw away the covers, struggling to escape until at last he emerged and lay there spent, gulping in the air while his heart pounded so hard that he thought it might burst.

The panic slowly subsided and his breathing became more regular, but the press of the boot against his chest remained. Lately, that particular sensation never went away completely; it dogged him every minute of the day and night, and he seemed always on the edge of succumbing to it. If he thought back, he could remember precisely the moment when it first began, but he had learned to avoid dwelling on the reminiscence of it, for it served only to torment him all the more and drain his precious energy.

At last, the young man sat up on the mattress-he no longer possessed the bed frame that once held it-and leaned his shoulders back against the wall. All was in shadows about him, the bedroom scarcely illumined by the faint sliver of daylight creeping over the top of the tightly drawn curtains. It was late morning, almost noon, but it still felt like the dead of the night. That's how things were for him. No matter now much he slept, he never felt rested, and his waking moments were passed in a perpetual state of exhaustion. Wearily, he closed his eyes once more and listened to the voice for a time.

It was a recording of Pavarotti, singing Schubert's "Ave Maria," that had awakened him. In a neighboring apartment-he had not been able to ascertain which one-some lover of opera had of late been playing his recordings at all hours. Though he himself was no great lover of opera, the young man had grown accustomed to hearing the music without truly listening to it. It was like a living sound track to him with ever-changing strains of sorrow and ecstacy, playfulness and passion, but one of which he had remained more or less oblivious. Now, however, for the first time, he found himself truly attending to the music, straining to hear each lyric, every note of the gentle tune.

"... Maria, grátia pléna ..."

On and on the tenor sang, his voice rising and falling with every heartfelt note.

The song was familiar to the young man, though he could not quite remember where or when he had heard it before. It kindled in his mind the flicker of some distant memory, but it was like something out of a sad dream that left in its wake only a sense of loss and sorrow, and the heaviness of regret, but no recollection of what had transpired in the subconscious.

"... óra pro nóbis peccatóribus ..."

He understood not a single word of it, and yet the simple beauty of the song moved the young man to the brink of tears, tears he choked back with great difficulty. The music evoked a hunger in him, one sharper and more insistent than the one gnawing at the pit of his stomach. Though he had not eaten in two days, deep within he realized that he was craving something other than food or drink, but precisely what he could not say. And so he listened all the more intently to the voice, hoping it would tell him.

"... nunc et in hóra mórtis. Amen ..."

The voice and the music finally died away, leaving the room in an unearthly silence that magnified all the more the young man's solitude. He sank back down onto the mattress for a moment, wanting with all his being to curl back into the protective shell in which he had slept, but he found that the covers no longer held any warmth. Not that it mattered, for he knew that the refuge of sleep would come no more to him that day. Against his inclination to remain there, he rolled his legs off the mattress and onto the floor, where he knelt for a time, wondering what he should do. At last he got to his feet, went slowly to the window, and drew back the curtains.

The January sky over Los Angeles was shrouded in dark, heavy clouds, and yet the gray daylight still hurt his eyes as he squinted and gazed out toward the marina. He had always loved the view from his apartment, the neat arrangement of the boats in their stately elegance, the sunlight reflecting off the water. It all made him feel special somehow, but the privilege of having it had come at a steep price. Once upon a time he had been happy to pay it, but those days had come to an end for him.

Now, as he looked blankly out the window, he scarcely noticed the view, for his thoughts had turned his attention inward. He was trying to recapture the sound of the voice, the one that had awakened him, to understand what it had been trying to tell him, but the recollection of it was just out of his reach. Hanging his head, he turned from the window and slouched off to the bathroom.

When he threw some water on his face and looked up into the mirror, it was a far older-looking, more careworn man than he expected to find staring back at him. The bloodshot eyes, the matted hair, the haggard unshaven face. The sight of himself was a shock, and he felt anew the too-familiar tightening in his chest and the quickening of his breath. He looked away and hurried back out to the corridor and into the living room. There the young man stopped for a moment to steady himself against the wall with one hand while he put the other to his head.

He looked about in dismay and bewilderment.

All was quiet and still as a tomb. Save for a solitary lamp in the corner, the room was empty, all the furnishings having been sold or repossessed, the faint indentations in the carpet the only evidence that anything had ever rested there. Where had everything-and everyone-gone? It seemed like only yesterday when that same room had been routinely filled with laughter and smiling faces. The smiles had come his way easily then. What had happened to drive them all away? He knew full well the answer, of course, but that knowledge comforted him little, so he closed his mind to it.

The young man continued on to the kitchen, where he stood for a time at the counter, the marble tiles cold against his bare feet, while he considered the unopened envelope addressed to him resting there. It had arrived yesterday via certified mail. He took the envelope and held it up before him.

"Jason Mirabella?" he wondered aloud, as if the addressee were a complete stranger to him. "Who's he?"

He said it only partly in jest, for his name no longer seemed to belong to him, but to someone else from some other place and time. It was as if he had been cast off from this world and set adrift, like a ghost trapped somewhere in the dark void between one life and another.

Jason dropped the envelope back onto the counter. There was no point in opening it, for he already knew it contained a letter telling him that he was being evicted from the apartment for nonpayment of rent. He had been expecting the missive for some time. The only surprise was that it had not come sooner.

The telephone rang, shattering the quiet and giving him a start. He was hesitant to answer it. Hardly anyone called these days, and even then, more often than not, it was someone looking for money. The electric company. The gas company. His landlord. The bars and restaurants who had once been happy to let him run up his tabs. Jason owed more than a few dollars to more than a few people. Having nothing left to give them, he decided to wait for the answering machine to pick up the call.

"Jay, it's Eddie," came the voice over the answering machine. "Come on, pick up, buddy. I know you're in there."

Jason took a breath and picked up the receiver. "I'm here."

"Hey, there you are," said Eddie easily. "I knew you were in there hiding someplace, screening your calls. So, what's the deal? Where's the party at tonight?"

Eddie was being kind. He was well aware of Jason's situation, and was just trying to keep things light. Jason appreciated it. Of all his friends, Eddie was the only one left who didn't run and hide every time Jason tried to get in touch. He was the only one still willing to help him in any way he could.

Jason glanced at the envelope on the counter.

"I don't know where the party is," he admitted with a sigh. "But I can tell you that it's definitely not here." He paused for a moment and closed his eyes, as if in prayer. "So, anything?" he asked.

There was an equivalent pause on the other end of the line.

"Nothing," Eddie finally said. "I floated your name to a couple of people here and at the studio, told them you were a marketing genius, that you'd be a perfect fit-but no takers yet. Beyond that, there's not much else to offer around here besides pushing a broom."

"I didn't think so," said Jason, his voice heavy with resignation." Thanks, though. I appreciate your trying."

"Hey, don't get down," Eddie told him. "You've got to be patient. It's gonna take a while, so you'll just have to sit tight and wait for this whole mess you got yourself into to blow over. You know how it is out here. L.A.'s all about today. You just have to give people time enough to forget about yesterday. Understand?"

Jason replied that he did, but he said so with little conviction. Yes, he understood quite well what his friend was telling him, but he was not so sure that he agreed. Yesterdays, he had found to his great distress, had a way of darkening today no matter how hard one tried to bury them or hoped for them to drift away and vanish forever like clouds over the horizon.

Jason tried to listen as Eddie continued to give him words of encouragement, but he found his thoughts inevitably taking him back to the voice and the music, the sound of it echoing once more in the deepest chambers of his heart and mind. It haunted him with its calling, and evoked once more that same hunger, that same peculiar sense of longing that he could not quite name, but that would not leave him alone.

The more he dwelt on it, the more it began to dawn on Jason that perhaps this strange yearning welling up inside him was not so unfamiliar as he had at first led himself to believe. As he considered it more closely, he realized that it had been growing steadily stronger for many days, tugging at him with greater and greater insistence, but he had been like a child, his own stubbornness and pride blinding him to the truth. Now, as he half listened to Eddie, his mind awhirl as he tried to sort out what to do next, Jason found that he could no longer ignore its beckoning. He puzzled and puzzled over it, his thoughts adrift on a darkened sea, until all at once everything became clear to him, like the flash of a beacon on a distant shore, cutting through the night to show him where he had to go.


"Jay," said Eddie, "are you still there?"

"Yeah, I'm still here," said Jason.

"So, what do you think? What are you going to do?"

Jason turned the question over in his mind for a moment.

"I'm gonna clean myself up," he finally told him. "And then 'm going back."

"Where, back East?" said Eddie.

"That's right."

"Come on, you gotta be kidding," Eddie huffed. "How can you go back? You know you love it out here. Wasn't it you that always said that L.A. was your lady?"

"Maybe she was," said Jason. "But the lady dumped me, in case you hadn't noticed."

There was a long silence at the other end of the line.

"So, how long you think you'll stay away?"

Jason took the envelope once more and looked at his name.

"I don't know," he said. "I guess as long as it takes."

The next day found Jason Mirabella standing in the terminal of Los Angeles International Airport. Only after a diligent search of every pocket of his clothing had he been able to scrape together enough cash for the cab fare to get him there that morning. As he took his place in the line to the ticket counter, his bags in hand, it struck him that he was leaving Los Angeles with even less than he had brought there when he first arrived four years earlier. That day and all its promise seemed so long ago, almost as if it had been nothing but a dream. Jason shook his head to dispel the memory, leaving it for some other day's ruminations as the line moved ahead.

"How can I help you?" said the pleasant young woman when Jason finally made his way up to the ticket counter.

Once upon a time, Jason might have been ready with some playful rejoinder to the innocent question, but such confidence had long since abandoned him. Now it was all he could do to muster a smile.

"I'm looking for a flight to Providence," he told her.

Jason might have called ahead to make a reservation, he reflected ruefully, but his telephone service had been disconnected the previous day, not long after he had finished talking to Eddie.

"Hmm, let's see what we can do for you," replied the young woman, thoughtfully scanning her monitor as she tapped away at the keyboard.

While he waited, Jason looked around at the other passengers coming and going through the terminal. Black, white, Asian, Hispanic. It seemed like he was at the hub of the world, getting ready to fly off to the farthest end of one of its spokes.

"I can get you there," said the young woman after a few moments," but nothing nonstop, I'm afraid."

"That's okay," Jason said. "I'm not in a big hurry. I'm just looking for the best available fare."

"I think we can manage that," she told him. "Are you looking for round-trip?"

Jason hesitated and looked about once more with despairing eyes.

"No," he sighed at last. "Let's make it one way."

Then he gave her his credit card and prayed that the charge would go through.

Chapter Two

"It can't be fixed."

Thus spoke Sal, the furnace guy.

The verdict was pronounced with an air of finality that, to anyone else, would have indicated that the issue at question had been officially closed. The tone of Sal's voice left no doubt as to where his thoughts stood on the matter, or the firmness of his conviction. He had examined all of the pertinent facts of the case, looked things up and down from every possible angle, considered them in every conceivable way, and finally rendered his judgment with the authority of a chief justice.

The furnace could not be fixed. Case closed.

Sal gave a grunt that conveyed an air of smug satisfaction, as if to announce that his long-held suspicions had finally been confirmed. Still down on one knee, he pulled back from the front of the furnace he had been inspecting and glanced over his shoulder at the gentleman standing behind him. The other man had observed the proceedings with keen interest, his eyes reflecting a modicum of concern, but not so much as to indicate that his state of mind had devolved into true worry.

The two were in the basement, a dark, confined, breathless place with a low ceiling and grimy stone walls. The space was just large enough to accommodate the enormous furnace, the oil tank, and a pair of sizable hot water heaters, but not much else. Apparently little thought had been given to the advantages of a large open basement by those who had constructed the house above over a century ago.

Sal turned back to eye the furnace and gave another satisfied grunt, further emphasizing his opinion that the mechanism had breathed its last.

Giulio Mirabella, however, the proprietor of the heating system in question as well as the house it heated, was not quite convinced, and was inclined to further consider the merits of Sal's case. With a furrowed brow, he looked over the shoulder of the repairman, who by now was gazing once more into the inner workings of the furnace, probing about with a flashlight in one hand and a screwdriver in the other.

"What do you mean it can't be fixed?" said Giulio, straining to see and understand exactly what the problem might be.


Excerpted from Villa Mirabella by PETER PEZZELLI Copyright © 2010 by Peter Pezzelli. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Peter Pezzelli was born and raised in Rhode Island. A graduate of Wesleyan University, he lives with his wife, two children and their dog in Rhode Island where, most days, he is busy at work on his next novel.

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Villa Mirabella 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Four stars! Are they kidding me!? This writing is so bad. I was foolish enough to pay for this because i was italian but this is NOT an italian feeling book. Oh please, the one or two words italian "oh well's" does not make this italian. Story was okay but really too superficial. Give me my money back.
sweb4us More than 1 year ago
Rising star Jason Mirabella was on top of the world. As the marketing guru for an up and coming medical device company in California, he had it all: plenty of money, a luxurious apartment, a flashy car, and his boss' gorgeous daughter for his girlfriend. Then one bad decision costs him everything. Finding himself one morning curled up on a mattress on the floor of his now otherwise empty apartment, Jason faces some hard truths. Out of work, out of money, and out of options, Jason decides to go home. Home is Providence, RI, where Jason's father owns a declining bed-and-breakfast. Jason's brother and sister, who help their father run the business, are not happy with their father's decision to welcome Jason back home and offer him a position at the inn. Jason isn't all that thrilled with the idea at first, either, but with no other options available to him, he decides to give it a try and gradually regains his faith in himself and his abilities. But something continues to haunt his thoughts, and it takes a life-threatening experience in Providence and a return trip to California for him to really come to terms with his disastrous past and make the necessary decisions to move forward with his life. This was a heartwarming story of family, love, and redemption. I really enjoyed watching Jason's character evolve and the byplay between Jason and his family was both entertaining and endearing. The insight Mr. Pezelli gives the reader into the Mirabella's boisterous Italian family, neighborhood, and lifestyle is a pleasure to experience. This is definitely a book I would recommend to others as a captivating read with an uplifting, happy ending. I give Villa Mirabella 4 paws! ***FTC Disclosure: This book was provided in exchange for an honest review, no other compensation was given, all opinions are my own***
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Los Angeles, Phil Langway persuades Med-Devices Technologies marketing guru Jason Mirabella to conceal key ProCardia One device negative results from clinical tests. The resulting investigation stopped with him being held culpable; whereas his boss escapes free, Jason is fired and loses his friends who are ashamed of him and afraid to be associated with him, and has no chance of making it with his former boss Bill Forsythe's daughter, Amanda who is carrying his baby. Humiliated he returns in abject disgrace to his home in Rhode Island where his family owns and manages a failing bed and breakfast. His dad Giulio is elated his son is home and employs him at the B&B; his two siblings Ray and Natalie are unhappy that the prodigal offspring has returned to work at the inn as they do not trust him to stay and besides they heard too many times from their dad how great he is. As Jason works passed his own disappointments where he failed to take an ethical stand, he tries to prove to his family he plans to stay in New England and never return to the West Coast by learning more about his siblings' desires and skills. The stereotypes of the happy loving Italian family and the Los Angeles tundra-hearted affluent snoot detract from a well written entertaining values story line. Jason is superb as he learns what is important in life when he cooked the books. He originally rationalized that he did it for Amanda, but coming home opens his eyes to that he did it for selfish reasons. Fans will enjoy his life values lessons learned saga while wondering if Wall St. has learned anything from the worst near meltdown in America since Three Mile Island. Harriet Klausner
Aradanryl More than 1 year ago
Enjoyable to read cuddled up under a quilt with a nice cup of tea while the wind blows and the rain falls. Jason, the main character, is believable and became more likeable as the story unfolded. Leaving his family for the glittering façade of California's business scene, like many, he finds himself expendable. Once the wealthy young rising star, his disgrace causes his opulent lifestyle to rapidly disappear, including the physically attractive and shallow Amanda. Returning home broke and disillusioned, he slowly faces his mistakes. The family dynamics kept the story from being overly sweet and trite. Would be that everyone has a dad like Giulio!